On June 22 1807 off the coast of Maryland, a British sloop, HMS Leopard with 50 guns, commanded by Captain Humphries, fired upon an American naval vessel, the Chesapeake of 36 guns under the command of Captain Barron. The Chesapeake had a novice crew on board and were unprepared for the Leopard’s attack; they could only manage one shot in return. Captain Barron hauled down the flag and had to allow a boarding party on to his vessel. Four American born seamen from his ship were taken to the Leopard under claims that three of them were deserters from the British frigate Melampus. This incident caused great indignation at British assumption of the ‘right to search’ vessels and contributed to the worsening relations between America and Britain, prevalent at this time.
Six years later, the Chesapeake was actually captured by another British frigate, the HMS Shannon. Captain Lawrence was commanding the American ship off of Cape Ann with another novice crew. HMS Shannon was purposely looking and equipped for attacking a "Yankee" ship. Captain Broke of the Shannon issued a challenge to Captain Lawrence, which American accounts say that he never received. The encounter took place and lasted thirteen minutes. Captain Lawrence, badly wounded was below deck when Lieutenant Ludlow handed over the ship to prevent further loss of life. Both Lawrence and Ludlow died later from their wounds.
The Chesapeake then served in the Royal Navy for fourteen years before being broken up. The majority of her timbers were bought and built into a mill at Wickham, Hampshire where they can still be seen today.
The Chesapeake Mill can be viewed in the town of Wickham, just off the A32, 2 miles north of Fareham.
© Royal Naval Museum Library 2001
The information contained in this fact sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available.